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Meet the Makers: Chilewich

Photo by Megan Senior

Sandy Chilewich has redefined what it means to set a table or dress up a floor. Her namesake company, Chilewich, continues to innovate textile design for the home and commercial spaces with a signature material: woven vinyl.

That material is hardly as simple as “what it’s made from.” It’s the key to a carefully curated design process, which aims to strike the ever-important balance of form and function. Whether on a table, across a floor or even slung over a shoulder, Chilewich designs are stunning to look at, with a durability and versatility that can’t be matched.

Here, Sandy lets us in on how she continues to innovate, push boundaries in design and find creativity amid a lot of noise:

Does the design work at Chilewich have seasons?
Our consumer collections have two seasons, much like fashion. Our trade collections—for interior designers and for restaurants—have only one season. However, we are in continual textile development in our studio, experimenting with new weave constructions on our handloom, embroidering, printing, researching new yarns, playing with new materials, and always imagining new applications for our textiles.

Weaving a Market Fringe piece in “Sangria” TerraStrand®.

Chilewich’s Market Fringe collection, released earlier this year, was a design breakthrough. It’s quintessential Chilewich, with woven strands of its signature material. But collaborating with boutique weaver L.A. Mills led to the development of multi-tonal strands that are especially artful and showcase the unique weaving texture in a chunkier textile for both the table and floor.

What’s your go-to when you need a creative nudge?
There is a visual onslaught out there now which I find very distracting. I am a fanatic about originality, so for me and my design team, it’s always about creating a very personal interpretation of what we see. We are never literal. What inspires me? Fleeting visual moments in the real world, unlikely material juxtapositions, uncovering the texture that makes the surface of any object hold the possibility of a weave or print.

Chilewich’s Glow collection utilizes a translucent base fabric, which allows the color gradations to appear lit up into a soft glow. At left: inspiration for the collection. At right: Glow in action on a chic tabletop.

How do you balance the ever-important form and function in your designs? Does one come before the other?
The friction of balancing beauty and functionality can feel like hell at times. During this process, you often experience the feeling of loss that always comes with compromise, but the essence of creativity is to replace that loss with something equally as good—or better.

Terrastrand, the yarn behind 90% of Chilewich designs. The material is phthalate-free and created using renewable vegetable compounds, which means major environmental savings (in petroleum and CO2) as compared to traditional woven vinyls.

How do you keep pushing the boundaries of design for pieces that have been household staples for many years?
Creativity is boundless really, and I am fortunate to have truly artistic and inventive designers on my team. We all have a good idea as to which of our designs have the potential to be timeless and universal, and which are more limited by their specific aesthetic. We love both here.

Anything you’re itching to design that you haven’t yet?
I am always itching! I feel so lucky that I finally have the resources in our studio to expand upon our ideas with new designs and products. You will be seeing some of these soon!

What colors can we look forward to seeing in the fall collection?
I am amazed how perceptions of color change. I had always hated a particular shade of green that I associated with dentists’ offices from my childhood, in the 60s and 70s. My design team, who are much younger and did not have this negative association, proposed it for our fall palette. I kicked and screamed for a bit but now love it.

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Sarah Schaale

Sarah Schaale

Sarah is a Brand Marketing Manger for YDesign Group brands. A writer and editor at heart, she loves storytelling in all its forms and is a copious consumer of the Internet (for better or worse). In design, she finds inspiration in simplicity, warmth and all things Danish.

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